Local health officials react to Covid-19 vaccine arrival

MEDFORD, Ore. — “The initial allocations of vaccines is less than we initially thought,” said Dr. David Candelaria, Josephine Co. Public Health officer.

It’s a massive effort never completed in our lifetimes.

And with that, local health officials say there’s bound to be hurdles and set backs.

Josephine County Health Officer Dr. David Candelaria says Oregon was initially going to get 50 to 100,000 Pfizer vaccine doses, but that number was reduced to over 30,000.

“Even the amount of vaccine that we initially thought was going to come was going to be inadequate to meet full need or the full intent of the first round of vaccinations,” said Dr. Candelaria.

Because of the limited supply, Dr. Candelaria says high population areas like Portland, Salem, and Eugene will get the doses first.

He says transporting the Pfizer vaccine also presents challenges because it has to be stored at ultra cold temperatures.

That’s not the case for the Moderna vaccine, which can be stored at regular freezer temperatures.

“Minus 94 degrees fahrenheit is pretty darn cold. And the vaccine doesn’t come in one and two’s, it comes in a thousand per pallet. So, some of the logistics will determine who receives the vaccine first,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County health officer.

Once refrigerated, Dr. Shames says the Pfizer vaccines have around a week to be used.

He says both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses adding another layer of difficulty.

“You can imagine a situation where we have four or five different vaccines being given, each one requiring two doses and being absolutely sure the person you’re giving dose two to, received dose one of the new vaccine,” said Dr. Shames.

Healthcare workers and nursing home residents may be first in line to get vaccinated.

But Dr. Candelaria says under-served communities and minorities have been especially hit hard by the virus making equitable access to the vaccine a priority.

That includes communicating the message of a Covid-19 vaccine to non-English speakers.

“What may be easy to understand for a person of one ethnicity, may need a different delivery to someone of another ethnicity,” said Dr. Candelaria.

One thing is clear, health officials say getting our country vaccinated is far from easy, especially when the need is so great.

The Oregon Health Authority says it will be months before most Oregonians get the vaccine.

The agency says it’s important to continue wearing masks, practice physical distancing, and avoid social gatherings.

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